A couple of days ago we raised two important questions:
- Why did Jesus die?
- Why did Jesus rise?
When we looked at the first question, we saw that it was important for Christians because we want to follow Jesus and there are two challenges along the way
- The temptation to sin
- The threat of false teaching
We are now going to look in more detail at the second question “Why Did Jesus rise” and we are going to see what it says about how we deal with sin.
Remember, in the first article we said that there were three ways that we try to deal with sin and none of them work.
Legalism is about trying to follow rules, regulations and rituals. It is guilt driven. If I fail then I feel guilt and shame. I fear that God will stop loving me or that I will lose the approval of others. Legalism also leads to pride. I measure how well I am doing against others and congratulate myself.
Licence is about just doing as I please and giving up on trying to live a good, godly life. I think that it is hopeless. Maybe I’ve tried to kick a habit in the past or I’ve gone for a period of time without swearing, lying or gossiping -then one day I do it all again. I think “Why bother? This is futile.” We also can think that it doesn’t matter that much. We are saved by grace -so sin does not matter.
Magic is about looking for something or someone outside of me to change things. Maybe if I go to a special conference or service? Maybe if someone prays this prayer for me? What if I have a special spiritual experience? Then I will be free from sin. Such an approach will leave you chasing after the next experience, the next spiritual high, the next big thing. You will end up exhausted and disappointed.
In place of that this passage gives us a very simple message. It is this. It is possible to fight and overcome sin because of the new life, the new status we have in Christ. Your old life has gone. The “you” that was God’s enemy and under Satan’s rule has died with Christ and in their place a “new you” has been raised with Christ free from Satan and no longer under the power of sin and death.
In light of that, Paul gives us three important commands
Seek and set your mind on the priorities that go with your new status (v 1-4)
So, our eyes and our minds should be on things above. This is a metaphor – not so much up there v down here or doing things like singing and praying instead of working hard, making helping, studying cleaning (this will come clear later on). Rather, it means that if we belong to and with Christ then we share his priorities. Kingdom of heaven priorities.
Down here/earth/things below represents human sinful rebellion. This means that the attitudes, actions, thoughts and words that belong with sin and Satan are not to be tolerated.
Now, just pause for a second. The focus here remains very much on the new status we have in Christ. We are alive with him. We are hidden in him. For Paul, this is so important. Whenever he asks us to do something, it is rooted in lots of teaching about who we are.
The first way we deal with sin, is not by coming up with a list of rules, not by some rituals and not by just giving up but by getting a better understanding of what it means to be saved.
We are really talking about Justification here. Justification means that God gives us the legal status of being righteous. He treats, just as if we had always kept his Law perfectly. We will not be punished for sin because Jesus has already paid the price. Justification is tied closely to His resurrection because the Resurrection gives us the verdict that the penalty of death has now gone. The sacrifice was acceptable and pleasing. God’s righteous anger has been satisfied.
Here’s a little side note. I know some of you worry about whether or not you are good enough to get baptised yet. You are concerned that you need to know more, or that you have to have defeated a particular habit or temptation. But look baptism is connected with the new status we have not with what you have to do. Baptism is telling people that you belong to Jesus.
Now, if you are not sure if you belong to Jesus. If what you are saying is that you really want to keep on getting drunk, watching pornography, gossiping etc and you just don’t want to give those things up then you are right to say “I cannot get baptised” because those things are still competing with Christ to be Lord of your life.
However, if you struggle with those things, don’t think you’ll ever be free but desperately want to give them up because now you belong to Jesus and want to love the things he loves, then you should be getting baptised and telling everyone “I belong to Jesus, he has forgiven me, he has cleansed me, he has justified me and it is all His work. I didn’t contribute anything to it at all.”
See as well not just your present status but your future status as well. You have been saved, you are justified. One day, you will be glorified. When Jesus comes back you will share in his glory. We are co-heirs with Him.
Put to death sin (v 5-7)
One of the Puritans once said “You must kill sin or it will be killing you.” Paul uses very strong language here to tell us that we must be ruthless in our attitude to sin. He uses the imagery of warfare.
So, how do we do this? Well, I think that it starts when we recognise how ugly and horrible sin is. You see how I get tempted and trapped by sin is that
- I minimise its seriousness. I say things like “it was just a white lie”
- I make excuses. “I had no choice, it was the best of all the bad options, I can’t help myself.”
- I negotiate “Just one last time”
- I focus on the pleasure it gives me.
Here, we see sin named in all its ugliness, not just the horrible list, greed, sexual immorality, lust but also what it is. Sin is idolatry. Sin means choosing to put other things first instead of Jesus. I find my security, protection and fulfilment in these things.
Sin is the cause of God’s wrath and coming judgement. Sin, was the very reason why Jesus had to die in my place. So, when I say that sin doesn’t matter, I say that Jesus and His death does not matter. I reject the Son and by rejecting him I reject the Father as well.
Paul says that these things belong with our old lives not with our new lives because now we belong to God.
Let me give a practical example. Think about the problem that many of us men have with pornography. Why does it become so addictive and enticing?
- We treat it as just a bit of fun. It’s just looking at pictures/watching film. I don’t actually sleep with the women I view.
- We get addicted. We find ourselves drawn to it.
- We tell ourselves “Just one more view.”
- We enjoy the sense of sexual thrill and pleasure it gives and seek satisfaction in it.
Putting pornography to death means recognising it as ugly and horrible. It is idolatry because I find pleasure in it instead of God. It is horrible, it cheapens and enslaves women, it distorts your mind. It is possible to stop with God’s help and to do that means being ruthless. It means telling someone that you are struggling with this and making yourself accountable. It means not having a computer that only you can use.
That’s one example -each of us will have our own.
Put off your old life and put on your new nature (v 8-11)
The image here is of getting new clothes. Strip off the filthy rags you have been wearing and put on new clothes. Again, Paul gives us a list re-inforcing how ugly and shameful sin is. You don’t want to go out in dirty, ragged clothes, do you? You don’t want people to see you like that.
It’s true spiritually. You are a child of the King -so go out dressed as one of his heirs. The battle with sin means that we have a positive vision for the new life we have. We know that sin is ugly and empty but we also see that life in Christ is much better.
Put on the things that belong to Christ. This will mean seeking to nurture and nourish the fruit of the Spirit. It will mean being loving and kind, gentle and patient. It will mean caring for others and it will mean seeking to share the good news of the Gospel.
Let’s go back to our example of pornography. What do you say to a believer who has struggled with this? They know it is serious, ugly and damaging but still find themselves drawn back into it. Well, as well as getting rid of the opportunities to be tempted give yourself opportunities for good too. You are tempted to look at porn when you are on your own and lonely. So use your time constructively.
- Fix your mind on what is good. This includes tiem for reading the Bible and praying but also lots of other great and good things – literature, art, sport, hobbies, hard work
- Make friends, be part of a community, offer hospitality, join the Bible study Home Groups, volunteer etc. etc.
- Most of all, remind yourself daily about the Gospel, take time to worship God in words, reading Scripture, praying etc.
- Look forward. Future Grace is the reminder that God has even more in store when Christ returns. Sacrifice and struggle is worth it now because we look forward in hope.
Paul is describing something in these verses that is life long and ongoing. Justification is something that God has done for us once for all. Sanctification is an ongoing, activity for life.
Don’t despair when there are setbacks. We are promised that if we confess our sin then he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Keep on, keeping on in Christ. This means we look back with joy and gratitude to the victory already won on the Cross and demonstrated by His resurrection. We also look forward to the say when Christ returns and we will be made perfect in Him.
 Get accountable by either having accountability software, sharing your computer with someone else or getting rid of your own internet connection.